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With Archy Vial
Archie Vial would like to apologize for the inexcusable length of silence which followed his last (and first) column in the"This Old Map" series. He is aware that the mapping community has waited in eager anticipation (and lately in slowly-growing frustration, bewilderment and despair) for the second installment. However, a crisis at the corporate headquarters of Annelid Software precipitated a change in his email address, and recent word processing activities have mainly been limited to resume preparation. Things are better now; he did not feel like boring his massive audience with pointless ruminations on the state of the economy, although he is perfectly capable of so doing. Now, however, he is settled in a new position with another would-be giant of the computer game industry. And from this high tower he sends forth another eleventh hour transmission for budding mappers who might benefit from his vast sea of experience.    - A. Vial


A mapper is a hybrid blend of industrious determination and creative fortitude. Or at least anyway there are days when it feels like that. A mapper (or, if you prefer the term, level designer) receives a daily jolt of godlike powers mixed with unending lessons in humiliation. Or anyway I do.

What makes it all worthwhile is when you make a map as entertaining as a can full of snakes that jump out at someone when they're expecting mixed nuts. That is a metaphor, and I just made it up, but it's appropriate. When I build a good map and watch one of my cohorts chuckle at it, or receive the admiration of my peers upon the internet (or the intranet as some like to call it), I really do feel as if I had pressed a joybuzzer into the palm of the universe, or anyway some small part of it, like the hand part.

If this sounds at all vague or nebulous, it might be because this week at work I am building a map called "The Vague Nebula," for which I have just received a lovely skybox from our resident artiste, who seems to have put fractal paisleys in it when I had specifically requested a spiral nebula, but she is an artist and they have licenses for that sort of thing.

"The Vague Nebula" is a map conceived on a grand scale, which is what I am mainly known for, although the limitations of our 3-dimensional engine (more on this later) often confine my visions to manifesting in corridors and outsized crawlspaces, somewhat stunting the original concept, but usually with surprising results.

I must warn you kids not to build maps when you are really, really drunk. Confine yourself to email or face the consequences. For example, I think I have just made a fatal error with "The Vague Nebula." The problem seems to stem from indecisiveness, which is what I have been criticized for recently. I'm only siding with my critics on this one occasion. I reserve the right to disagree with them later, if I so desire.

Indecisiveness took this form: I was making a map, a particular room in a map, about which I can say very little owing to the secrecy which shrouds all our projects. And there was this, shall we say, detail which I had just put into the map on a whim. It was very small, very simple, about two brushes, four polys, something like that, r_speeds very low, good portalization potential, a framerate you wouldn't believe, and I just couldn't make up my mind whether to take it out or leave it there. I wasn't sure that it didn't add something to the map-and I mean, from a lot of perspectives. But when I took it out, I sort of liked the austere and moody atmosphere of the room. But then the room seemed to be lacking a certain something, so I put it back in. And then I'd undo the insert, and it would vanish again from my texture preview. So I'd build the map just to make sure. I mean, I kept rebuilding it, taking that thing out, putting it in, inserting, undoing the insert, and then, this was I believe my fatal error, undoing the undoing of the insert. I think that was it right there. I undid the undoing of the redone undo. It was easy to do with a click on the mouse, but it was an act of illogic or something that completely caused my computer to come, well, undone. But this undoing cannot be undone, or at least that's what I'm afraid they'll tell me in the morning when the guy who works on the computers gets here. Right now, just down the hall, I can hear the other mappers laughing. And I suspect I know at whom.

Why don't they ever go home?



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